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Tim Berners-Lee Approves Patent Policy

From: Seth Johnson <seth.johnson@realmeasures.dyndns.org>
Date: Sun, 25 May 2003 21:12:18 -0400
Message-ID: <3ED169F2.226EC00F@RealMeasures.dyndns.org>
To: C-FIT_Community@realmeasures.dyndns.org, C-FIT_Release_Community@realmeasures.dyndns.org, fairuse-discuss@nyfairuse.org, patents@aful.org, www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org, DMCA_Discuss@lists.microshaft.org, DMCA-Activists@gnu.org
CC: djweitzner@w3.org, rms@gnu.org


(Forwarded from Interesting People list.  Tim Berners-Lee's comments are
pasted below.  -- Seth)

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [IP] W3C approves patent policy for royalty-freestandards
Date: Wed, 21 May 2003 09:38:47 -0400
From: Dave Farber <dave@farber.net>
To: ip <ip@v2.listbox.com>


------ Forwarded Message
From: Daniel Weitzner <djweitzner@w3.org>
Organization: W3C
Reply-To: djweitzner@w3.org
Date: Wed, 21 May 2003 15:36:11 +0200
To: Dave Farber <dave@farber.net>
Subject: for IP: W3C approves patent policy for royalty-free standards

Hi Dave,

The World Wide Web Consortium has approved the W3C Patent Policy.[1] With
this we're the first standards body that I'm aware of that has committed to
development standards that can be implemented on a royalty-free basis.  The
policy received more support from the Membership than any Recommendation in
recent history. More than a few IPers also helped out significantly along
the way. For more information read the Director's decision[2] explaining the
importance of the policy and reason for adopting it.

Best,

Danny

[1] http://www.w3.org/Consortium/Patent-Policy-20030520.html
[2] http://www.w3.org/2003/05/12-director-patent-decision-public.html
-- 
Daniel J. Weitzner                              +1.617.253.8036 (MIT)
World Wide Web Consortium                       +1.202.364.4750 (DC)
Technology & Society Domain Leader              <djweitzner@w3.org>
http://www.w3.org/People/Weitzner.html


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> http://www.w3.org/2003/05/12-director-patent-decision-public.html


Director's Decision, W3C Patent Policy

Overview and Public Summary

Based on overwhelming support of the W3C Membership, consensus in the Patent
Policy Working Group and support from interested members of the public, I
have determined that the proposed Royalty-Free Patent Policy should become
the Patent Policy for W3C. The Policy affirms and strengthens the basic
business model that has driven innovation on the Web from its inception. The
availability of an interoperable, unencumbered Web infrastructure provides
an expanding foundation for innovative applications, profitable commerce,
and the free flow of information and ideas on a commercial and
non-commercial basis. 

Beyond establishing a commitment to royalty-free (RF) standards, the policy
provides W3C with

- a stable, practical patent policy, 
- a clear licensing framework, 
- consistent disclosure obligations, and 
- an exception handling process when problems arise. 


This policy will help W3C concentrate on the business of producing the best
possible technical standards for the Web.

Background on the Development of the Web, and the relationship to Patents

Many participants in the original development of the Web knew that they
might have sought patents on the work they contributed to W3C, and that they
might have tried to secure exclusive access to these innovations or charge
licensing fees for their use. However, those who contributed to building the
Web in its first decade made the business decision that they, and the entire
world, would benefit most by contributing to standards that could be
implemented ubiquitously, without royalty payments.

This decision on the W3C Patent Policy coincides almost exactly with the
tenth anniversary of CERN's decision to provide unencumbered access to the
basic Web protocols and software developed there, even before the creation
of W3C. In fact, the success of technical work at the World Wide Web
Consortium depended significantly on that decision by CERN. The decision to
base the Web on royalty-free standards from the beginning has been vital to
its success until now. The open platform of royalty-free standards enabled
software companies to profit by selling new products with powerful features,
enabled e-commerce companies to profit from services that on this
foundation, and brought social benefits in the non-commercial realm beyond
simple economic valuation. By adopting this Patent Policy with its
commitment to royalty-free standards for the future, we are laying the
foundation for another decade of technical innovation, economic growth, and
social advancement.


Results of Member Review

There is strong support within the Membership and Web community-at-large to
adopt this policy. The total number of Members supporting the policy is very
high (higher than any technical Recommendation recently adopted) and public
support for the royalty-free goal of the policy has been significant. Based
on changes made to the policy in response to earlier comments, the Advisory
Committee review indicates that the overall level of support has increased
in the last year. What's more, we should be pleased that the Patent Policy
Working Group (PPWG) recommended the policy in its current form (but for
some minor changes) without formal objection from the very diverse
membership in that Working Group.

This policy discourages revenue generation strategies that work by forcing
standards-compliant applications to pay licensing fees. While the policy
necessarily involved choices that could be perceived as threatening certain
business models, I believe that this policy is the right one, from a revenue
perspective, for all who seek to contribute to the development of the Web
and who ultimately seek to profit from its growth. However, it does not
preclude licensing activity for all technologies on the Web. Indeed, by
supporting the continued growth of the underlying Web infrastructure and by
growing the overall market for the Web, this policy increases the
opportunity for financial gain (including from patent licenses) on
applications that depend upon the Web. My hope is that those Members who
have expressed opposition to the policy until now will find that it is still
in their interest to participate in the growth of the Web. We will certainly
work to be sure that this policy is implemented in a manner that is fair to
all.

The policy includes a process (section 7.5.3) by which W3C may chose, after
considerable deliberation, to include technologies not available according
to the defined royalty-free terms. In order to take such a step, substantial
consensus of both those participating in developing the technology and the
W3C Membership are required. A nearly equal (small) number of commenters
object that this provision is either too limiting or too broad. Some say
that the policy must make broader accommodation for non-RF (possibly
fee-bearing) licensing. For reasons stated above, we will not take this
path. Others say that the policy ought to exclude any non-RF technologies
without exception. This exception process is only designed to be used in the
rarest cases and ought not to function as a general allowance of non-RF
terms. However, it is important to have such an exception handling process
in order to deal with the truly unexpected situation without causing the
technology development process to halt needlessly. I recognize that
inclusion of this provision was a significant compromise for many in the
PPWG. Based on the high level of support for the policy overall, and the
relatively low level of objection to this provision, I believe that the
policy strikes the proper balance.


Conclusion

The Patent Policy represents what may be the most thorough effort to date in
defining a basic patent policy for standard-setting. I thank the
participants in the PPWG for their diligent and thoughtful work in what was
necessarily a politically-contentious environment. No single group -- patent
holders, open source developers or users -- got everything it wanted. But
the Working Group believes it has found a common, workable path that will
encourage the widespread adoption of W3C standards across a wide range of
business models, from proprietary to open source. We should all thank and
congratulate those who contributed time, expertise, patience and a spirit of
cooperation to this effort.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director
Received on Sunday, 25 May 2003 21:15:43 GMT

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